Biblical Hospitality is a Display of God’s Character
Biblical hospitality is, at its core, welcoming people. Some passages in the Bible reference welcoming strangers, others reference welcoming other believers but they’re all about welcoming those in our proximity with joy.
For many of us, this has become an intimidating, scary concept. Because our lives are so individualistic, we struggle with letting others in unless everything is perfect. We position our cameras so they only show the clean spots before we post on Instagram and we think our whole lives have to look that way before we let others in.
Sometimes we feel that hosting guests is inconvenient and we convince ourselves that we don’t have time for such things regularly.
Biblical hospitality is about more than perfectly curated spaces and well-entertained guests.
Biblical hospitality is an opportunity to showcase the character of God to the watching world.
God has been Hospitable to Us
First, when God created mankind, he gave us an amazing environment to grow and develop in. He gave us everything we needed.
When we messed everything up, God had a plan to make things even better than before – He sent Christ, he accomplished our redemption, and he is preparing a place now for us to dwell with him forever.
He welcomes those who don’t deserve welcome.
We see this played out in the life of Christ. Though he owned no property, he welcomed strangers constantly (John 3, John 12, Luke 5).
His kindness and generosity toward the unbelieving world were astounding as he ate meals and lived life with men and women.
On the day when the redeemed of the world are gathered to him, he will host a feast (Revelation 19), and we will understand God’s hospitality in an ultimate sense.
Even now, as we partake of communion with other believers in our churches, we are foreshadowing that beautiful day when we’ll sit around a table prepared for us by our Savior and eat a meal by his side.
When we are commanded in Romans 15:7 to “welcome others the way Christ has welcomed us” it means that we are, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live out the lavish, beautiful welcome of Christ in our daily lives, in our ordinary homes.
Because we have been so lavishly welcomed, the Spirit enables us to welcome others into our lives and homes with joy regularly.
Biblical Hospitality is an Act of Faith
When we think of big acts of faith, we think of the missionary who leaves everything behind to go out and share the gospel or the terminally ill patient who walks with joy into death because they believe in what they cannot see.
But big acts of faith are preceded by small ones. Simple acts of faithfulness like daily reading Scripture, believing God will reveal himself to us over time even if we struggle with remembering what we read. Fellowshipping again and again with the saints even if we’ve been previously hurt trusting that God works in and through his church whether we can see it or not. Or inviting people to dinner even though it feels inconvenient and like it doesn’t have a lot of purpose.
My favorite quote about biblical hospitality comes from the book The Simplest Way to change the world “Ordinary does not equal insignificant… we must remember that the church has progressed for 2 millennia on God’s power at work around ordinary kitchen tables and living rooms.”
We step out in faith, realizing that we can’t solve the world’s issues but, by grace, we can host a meal that points to the only one who can. As we practice Christian hospitality, we believe God will work through the things he has commanded.
Hospitality, at its core, is a simple act of faith that takes our eyes off the results and puts them squarely on Jesus.
Following God in a life of hospitality means trusting Him more than what our eyes can see. It means living everyday in light of the truth that God works through ordinary, seemingly insignificant things for his own glory and the good of the nations.
Christian Hospitality Matters
Every time we welcome others with simple hospitality, we are saying that even though this is a simple act that feels inadequate, it is what God will use to change the world because he has commanded it and he only makes commands for our good.
When our hospitality is rejected, it’s not good. When the community we seek to build crumbles around us, it’s not good. When we’re hurt in the church and feel like we can never rebuild, it’s not good. When friends gossip about us or take sides against us, it’s not good. When the neighbors hate us because of our alignment with Christ, it will hurt.
BUT, God doesn’t say everything that happens to the believer will be good. He says that he will work it for good (Romans 8:28).
Pushing forward, in the face of obstacles and defeat, trusting God with the everyday moments and focusing on doing “the next right thing,” will result in beauty.
When we open the doors to our imperfect homes and serve simple meals, we proclaim that even though it doesn’t make earthly sense, we trust God’s design.
Martin Luther famously said that “God milks the cow through the milkmaid.” What he meant was that God uses people to accomplish his care for the world. God serves our guests through us! God welcomes people through us! God extends the grace of the gospel through us! God embraces the sick, sinful, and hurting of this world in our homes.
Hospitality isn’t insignificant. In Biblical hospitality, we trust God to continue the work he has promised to complete in us and in his world.
Biblical Hospitality is NOT Entertaining
On the outside, hospitality and entertaining look strikingly similar. As Jen Wilkin said, they can have the same food and table settings. The difference lies in the heart behind the two.
The goal of entertaining is to impress guests and spend time with people we enjoy.
The goal of hospitality is to bless guests and spend time with those God has placed around us.
This isn’t to say that we won’t enjoy those people. Most of the time we’ll absolutely enjoy them (and even more because they’re those God has given us).
The goal in hospitality is not to find the people we ought to be networking with and show them a lavish time. It’s not to elevate our friend lists or reputations. The goal of Christian hospitality is to bless those God brings around us whether they’re easy to love or not (Luke 14).
How do we practice Biblical hospitality? What elements make hospitality distinctly Christian?
Hospitality is not something for us to boast in. Biblical hospitality is Spirit-enabled and Spirit-fulfilled. We can’t do this on our own. Welcoming with true joy even when it’s inconvenient or difficult is something the Spirit must do in us. Serving with glad and generous hearts is a work of God in our lives.
To depend on ourselves and our own greatness is a sure means of failure.
We must pray.
- We must pray that this work would be done in the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11).
- We must pray that our conversations would be pleasing to the Lord and honoring to our guests.
- We must pray that the Spirit would move in us and our homes to showcase his glory.
- We must pray for the hearts of our guests to be blessed and encouraged.
Without prayer and real dependence on the Holy Spirit, all of this work is without purpose and empty.
- Pray that your home would be used as a tool for God’s glory in your community.
- Pray that God will bring people you need and who need you.
- Pray that the gospel would be central in all your conversations.
- Pray that you would be a host who honors the Lord.
- Pray that you would have a good attitude.
- Pray that your family would extend the welcome of Christ.
- Pray that your guests would be blessed.
- Bring your fears and anxieties about hospitality to the Lord.
- Bring your concerns and insecurities to Him.
- Bring your guests before His throne.
I love this quote from George Muller:
“Be assured, if you walk with him and look to him, and expect help from him, he will never fail you.”
I’ve heard it said that humility is not thinking more of yourself, and not thinking less of yourself; it’s not thinking of yourself.
And what a beautiful thought that is!
This doesn’t mean we don’t remember our own needs or concerns. It means that we don’t focus only on what we want at the moment – but that we “look also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
If we want to honor the Lord through Biblical hospitality, we will ask the Lord to produce in us true humility.
How many of our anxieties would be cast aside if we were looking to the good of our guests rather than our own insecurities?
How much of our fears about what we will talk about or how a guest will stay occupied would be done away with if we focused on what would really bless our guests rather than how we will fill time?
How much of our concern about the state of our homes or the taste of our meals would be done away with if we weren’t ultimately concerned with people’s impression of us?
Practicing humility in hospitality will help us focus on honoring God and serving our guests well. This is critical to the success of our hospitality efforts as we seek to honor the Lord and it’s a gift only he can give us. We must seek him for it.
1 Peter 4:9 says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
When we start opening our hearts and welcoming others in, things get messy and beautiful all at the same time.
In the middle of a full to-do list when the doorbell rings, it is hard to be genuinely joyful.
When we’re having a difficult day and are given an opportunity to be a blessing to others, it’s difficult to move past our discouragement to find joy in serving them.
When our house doesn’t meet our standards for guests and a surprise visitor needs our welcome, it’s easy to grumble.
When the plans don’t come together and there isn’t enough time to complete a meal the way we want to or we get distracted and burn the bread, finding joy is hard.
God knew that when he authored Scripture which is why He adds the special note to not grumble to the command to be hospitable. God wants us to open our homes and lives to others but he cares about the heart we do that with.
He wants us to open our hearts with joy and honestly, guests can tell whether or not we really want them around.
But, how can we do this? How can we be thankful for the inconvenience and the imperfect conditions of our hosting?
Ultimately, this comes down to our view of God’s sovereignty.
If we really believe that God is sovereign in our circumstances, we will trust Him to do what is right.
The truth is, God knows our busyness, our needs, and the needs of those around us.
A friend who wants to hang out will probably be happy to go to the grocery store with us. A fellow church member who shows up with a tear-stained face doesn’t mind sitting next to our laundry pile. A neighbor who swings over unannounced won’t might chopping veggies while she talks.
God knows our needs and he knows our plans and he is happy to interrupt our schedules with opportunities to cultivate community. This is his kindness to us.
We must pray that we will see it as such and trust the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom as we navigate each circumstance.
Biblical Hospitality for God’s Glory
Biblical hospitality matters because God says it does. God wants to use our hospitality and the communities it cultivates for his glory and the good of the world.
Biblical hospitality is not about impressing people or entertaining them. Biblical hospitality is so much more than that!
And, because we realize this, we can step out in faith believing that God can and will use our efforts for his glory.
What’s the Next Step? Check out these resources to get started!
- Growing in your love of hospitality
- Simple hospitality you can offer this week
- Beginner’s Guide to Neighborhood Hospitality
- Guide for Creating a Welcoming Home
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1. Food on a wooden table
2. Photo by Amber Turner on Unsplash
3. Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash
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6. Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash